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Album Review: Christmastide
Richard Carr
Cover image of the album Christmastide by Richard Carr
Richard Carr
2005 / Rec'D Music
49 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Christmastide is Richard Carr’s third solo piano holiday album to date. It features a selection of sixteen pieces that are a combination of traditional favorites, more obscure songs (in the USA, anyway), two original compositions, and a couple of Carr’s free-form improvisations. Enough of the songs on this CD are not commonly-known that listeners should be able to enjoy the music year-round. Carr’s approach to recording is to perform in the moment, making few, if any, edits, essentially creating a live recording without an audience of more than one or two. Carr’s longtime recording and mastering engineer, Lenny Bertrand at Tulane University, keeps the piano sound consistent from album to album as well as from track to track.

I’ll start with the familiar songs. The CD opens with “Joy to the World,” and Carr plays it pretty straight, imbuing it with energy and elation. “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” is one of the simplest of the children’s carols, and Carr keeps it sweet and innocent with an improvisation on the third verse. Schubert’s “Ave Maria” is one of the most beautiful and familiar pieces ever composed, and Carr doesn’t embellish much on this arrangement, allowing the piece to speak for itself. “Marching Through Toyland” is a clever medley of Victor Herbert’s “Toyland” and Tchaikovsky’s “March of the Toy Soldiers” from The Nutcracker. “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus” is an old hymn penned by Charles Wesley. The other two commonly-heard traditional carols are “Away In a Manger” and “Still, Still, Still,” and both are arranged simply and effectively. Some of the other songs are traditional Polish, Czech, and Venezuelan pieces that add an international flavor. “I’ll Be Home In Time” is the first improvisation. Reflective and melancholy, I wonder if Carr was thinking of the home he had to leave in New Orleans during Katrina. “Following the Star” is also dark and subdued, and is one of Carr’s loveliest pieces yet. “Sun-Drenched Icicles” sounds much like the title - chilly and sparkling. “Drifting Snow” is the closing improvisation. At almost 6 1/2 minutes, Carr opens up and lets this piece go where it may, but maintains the mood of peaceful solemnity.

Christmastide will be a welcome addition to your holiday collection if you like tunes from around the world as well as some old favorites and a sampling of new music. It is available from www.richardcarr.com, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com.
November 6, 2006
This review has been tagged as:
Holiday Albums
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